Aug 15

【RocketNews24】5 awesome Japanese ice creams that are perfect for summer

Posted by Michelle Lynn Dinh (Shimane-ken, Chibu-mura, 2010–13), editor and writer for RocketNews24The following article was written by Philip Kendall (Fukushima-ken, Shirakawa-shi, 2006–11), senior editor and writer for RocketNews24, a Japan-based site dedicated to bringing fun and quirky news from Asia to English speaking audiences.

5 awesome Japanese ice creams that are perfect for summer 【Video】

It’s the middle of August, and while the days we’ve been having recently aren’t quite as face-meltingly hot as those a couple of weeks ago, it is nevertheless still pretty toasty out there. Thankfully, just like when suffering with a cold or sore throat, the summer heat does afford us one very tasty luxury: a genuine excuse to gorge on delicious ice cream!

If you’re feeling the heat this summer, or are just curious about some of Japan’s go-to ice cream treats, join us after the jump for a special video featuring five of our frozen favourites.

You can pick up the five ice creams featured in our video from pretty much any supermarket or convenience store in Japan, so you’re never too far away from epic refreshment and creamy luxury. We must warn you, though: watching this video may cause uncontrollable salivation and pangs of jealousy in those living outside Japan.

This is of course just the tip of the vanilla-flavoured iceberg – there are tons more ice cream treats out there to try, so be sure to share your own favourites in either the comments section below or over on our YouTube channel. Happy gorging!

Sep 25

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_0710Yes. This past week on Kume Island, children were sent screaming as a single wild lion went rampaging through a peaceful neighborhood. Well, it was mostly peaceful. Since it was the full moon and August 15th of the Kyureki calendar, there were also a bunch of people around banging gongs and playing music. There were also some creepy Hacaburo running around egging the lion on. Warned in advance that something might be going on, I showed up with some local friends just after sunset with my camera ready. What I saw shocked me, and soon my former students were running for cover… behind me.

By the end of the night no less than 5 children had been bitten. When asked, parents responded that they were overjoyed. One parent, while holding a screaming infant, smiled widely and talked about how smart he would be while neglecting to stop the lion from continuing its rampage.

For more on this story, visit for pictures and video.

Jul 26

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Fu ChanpuruAfter nearly five years living in Okinawa, my favorite food is still Fu Chanpuru.  While it might sound like part of a martial art, Fu is actually wheat gluten (so steer clear gluten intolerant people… sorry! you’re missing out).  In Okinawa, you can buy Fu in packages, either in long roles, or in more compact forms.  Fu is baked and dry, so you will have to hydrate it before use.


  • 72g Fu- gluten
  • 1 carrot cut into thin slices
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 packet mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 170g meat (sausage, pork, etc)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3tbsn soy sauce
  • 1tbsn garlic powder +extra
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 packets dashi
  • 3 small chingensai plants, cleaned and chopped (optional)
  • water
  • 2tbsn Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Visit for the full recipe.

Jun 6

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

It’s no secret that Japanese food is popular outside of Japan.  Not only is the food in-country highly rated, but there are Japanese restaurants all over the world.  A lot of people wonder, why is Japanese food so good?  It’s a complex answer.  Many will tell you it’s umami, others the care and thought put into food, and yet more that it’s the simplicity of the dishes that highlights natural flavors.

I’m not a food expert, but I think it’s a bit of all the above.

When I lived in the States, I never ate fish.  Maybe it was because I lived in the desert and all we got were frozen or river fish.  Whatever the reason, I’ve had an aversion to most fish since I was young.  Then, 5 years ago, I got dropped on a little island in the Pacific, their second industry being fishing.  Their food was fresh, delicious, and amazing.

A week ago I had a shrimp that was still moving a bit.  And IT WAS SO GOOD.  My family will tell you what large strides my palate has taken over the last five years.  So why was that prawn tail I had so much better than any other shrimp I’ve ever had?  How did a bit of still moving shrimp overcome 23 years of stubborn dislike?

Simplicity.  The shrimp was peeled, and served with a bit of soy sauce.   There were no other flavors to get in the way, no cross-contamination from sauce pans, pasta, or other fish.

Umami. The briny flavor combined with the bite of soy and the sweetness of the meat meant create that unique sixth taste that everyone raves about.  It’s a balance easily lost when the simplicity is left out.

Quality.  Kume Island is known for miso cookies, sugar cane, and white sand beaches, but it’s also home to many kuruma prawn farms.  Kuruma Prawns are similar to tiger shrimp, but a slightly different species.  They’re the kind of shrimp Jiro’s restaurant used in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.


So what makes Kume Island’s shrimp so good?  Checkout the video below then head over to to learn more about Kume Island Prawns.


**Please note: At least 3 shrimp were harmed in the filming of the video and writing of this post.  They were delicious.**

May 8

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Your first question is probably a lot like mine when I got my placement in Kitadaito. Where?

A lot of us on the JET programme end up in interesting locations that we’ve never heard of before. My first JET posting was on a small island, 320km east of the Okinawan mainland with a population of 550 people. I spent three years on Kitadaito and loved every(well pretty much) minute. A lot of what I learned there inspired my first two books Samurai Awakening and Revenge of the Akuma Clan. During my time on the island, I made a video for an event on the mainland.

The video was my first ever and I used school equipment which, combined with my limited experience produced a so-so video. I went back with a bit more practice and re-did the video, upgrading the quality where I could and adding new material from a visit last year. I hope you enjoy this digital look at Kitadaito Island.


Apr 11

Advanced Chahan Recipe

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

ChahanBy far my most popular post on More Things Japanese is my easy recipe for Chahan.  This time around, I wanted to share a slightly more time-consuming, but even tastier recipe for those of you who love Chahan.  As with my advanced recipe for miso soup, it is all made from scratch, including the dashi. This take on Fried Rice is a mix of the local flavors I’ve learned on small Okinawan islands, and a bit of flair from me as well. I hope you enjoy.


  •  5 cups water
  • 1 piece conbu
  • 1 cup packed bonito flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • 170g sausage
  • 1 pack mushrooms
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 package nirai
  • 1 cob fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped nira (a scallion-like leaf)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1tbsp sake
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2tbsp mustard
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pepper



For detailed directions visit

Mar 21

Himeji Castle – Reconstruction

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_8576Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture is hailed as the most fabulous of Japan’s many castles. It is definitely the largest. I had the opportunity to visit Himeji for a half-day at the start of March in 2013. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Hertiage site.


Over the past several years, the main keep of Himeji Castle has been covered by a giant scaffolding that is essentially a building that encircles the high roof. The internal structure has been reinforced to prevent earthquake damage, while the plaster and roofing tiles have been replaced or reworked for water and fire proofing.


The last major restoration of the castle was completed in 1964.  This new reconstruction is similar to the first. When I visited the restoration work was nearly complete. I had the opportunity to travel to the top of the scaffolding and view the roof from the outside, a view that will disappear in 2014 as the scaffolding is disassembled and the main keep re-opened.  Despite the construction work, I found the grounds beautiful and interesting.  Though the inner keep is not accessible, much of the rest of the grounds were, including the West Bailey.  It was a great way to spend a few hours strolling through the castle grounds and trying to snap a few photos.

IMG_8236Throughout the grounds there are multilingual plaques describing many aspects of the history and culture of the castle including its reconstruction and maintenance.  Many crests of past lords who reigned at the castle, many worked into the roofing tiles.  In the Egret’s Eye View, I was even able to observe a live demonstration of the tiling work.  I’ve always found Japanese style tile roofs to be interesting, so it was great to see how they and the walls were actually put together.


Himeji Castle is located in Hyo prefecture at 68 hon-machi, Himeji, Hyogo.  Hours of operation are 9 am to 4 pm (September through April) and 9 am to 5 pm (May to August).  Closed December 29 and 30.  The Egrets Eye closes a bit earlier.

For more pictures from Himeji Castle please checkout my post at

Jan 31

How Miso is Made – A Visit to a Local Factory

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

MisoBeans Ever wonder what miso is?  If you’ve been to Japan or eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you’ve likely had or at least seen miso.  I remember my first time having miso soup.  I was in college trying out a little Japanese restaurant that had popped up just outside the UofA.  I was pretty green as far as Japanese food went so I ordered teriyaki chicken (I’m sure the chef was thinking all kinds of bad things about me).  Before the meal, a bowl of soup appeared.  It was a clear broth with some kind of brown particles floating in it.  I tried the soup, but the flavor was so different from anything I had eaten before.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but then it quickly grew on me.  Now, I look forward to miso, be it in my soup, as a glaze for fish, or in the middle of a rice ball.

I’ve studied Japan for a long time, and I’ve always translated miso as ‘fermented soy bean paste.’  Just like soy sauce, miso is made from soy, but it is only part of the story.  A few weeks ago, my island had its sangyo matsuri where I was able to meet one of the people who make miso here (Kumejima‘s miso is quite popular).  I was interested in the process so I wrangled a visit to the factory.

One of the first things I found out is that they don’t make miso all the time.  Traditionally, miso was something made at home.  Each family would make their own miso for their own use.  As with so many things, the miso making skills are fading with the convenience of store-bought foods.  Still, there are a few places that still do local miso.  Since it is a fermented product, the temperature is an important factor, thus miso can only be made in moderate seasons.  If it gets too cold, or too hot, the fermentation wont go on as well.

The process also takes more than three months.  At the small local factories, they make large batches two or three times a year as needed.  The rest of the time, they focus on other projects or on creating new items.


For more about how miso is made, including pictures, a walk-through of the process, and great miso based recipes, visit

Dec 17

Local Industrial Festival Reveals a Wealth of Culture

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Taiyaki Stall

The industrial Fair, or sangyo matsuri in Japanese, is a fixture in the annual event calendar on my island.  From the English translation you might think of cars, heavy manufacturing, and other well-known industry.  In Japan, though, many products are made by very small local companies rather than in large factories.  Even when big factories are necessary, there are often many small shops acting as suppliers.  Taken to a further level, small rural communities without those major industries often have a vibrant industrial community supporting local needs.  You might be surprised to learn about all the things going on around you in small local Japan.

Recently, our island had its yearly sangyo matsuri, and event designed to inform locals about the various products made on Kumejima and also to sell those products. One of the local kaizen (community) centers was taken over by scores of tables and activities for everyone to enjoy.

Checkout for more photos and a video on the Agricultural, Oceanic, and Cultural sights at this unique event.

Oct 3
Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

The 2012 Kitadaito Festival was a two-day event in September marking an important time of community inclusion and tradition. The second day of the Festival was on the 23rd and, as in years past, featured sumo competitions as a traditional Japanese offering to the kami and ancestors of the village. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on day one. Below is a video showing excerpts from the day, with more information and photos farther down. Enjoy!

Traditional Okinawan Dance

Sumo Competitions

The second day began in the morning on Sunday around 9:00. Villagers gathered again before the Daito-gu shrine. There, a Shinto priest led a ceremony blessing both the sumo ground and the people. New babies were also brought before the shrine by their parents so that the adults could ask for safe and prosperous lives for their children.

Shinto Priest and Sumo ring

After the ceremonies were complete, the villagers settled in to watch Edo and Okinawan Sumo competitions. Although Kitadaito is in Okinawan Prefecture, it was originally settled by people from Hachijo Island, which means the traditions of the island are a unique mix of mainland Japan and Okinawa. At the Daitogusai festival, both types of sumo take place. Pre-school through junior high students take part in edo style sumo.

… Read the rest and see more photos on!.


Sep 25

Torii Gate at Kitadaito Shrine

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Every year on September 22 and 23 Kitadaito Village celebrates its largest Festival.  These dates mark the beginning of autumn.  Kitadaito, also known as north Borodino island, is a place of 12sq kilometers 320 kilometers east of the Okinawan mainland.  It is unique in that it was settled by residents of Hachijo Island (near Tokyo) but is part of Okinawa Prefecture.  Over the past 100 years the island has become a unique chanpuru (mix) of both cultures.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, I spent three years living and teaching on Kitadaito, and returned this year after more than a year on Kumejima.  It was great to re-experience old memories and make new ones as the festival has changed since my time there.  Watch the accompanying video for a chance to experience a few bits from this truly unique day.


Read more about the Kitadaito Festival on Ben’s blog —

Jun 13

Tottori JET Anthony Lieven has been creating new videos each month as part of a project that introduces his JET town of Misasa to the world.  With Anthony’s permission, here is his latest video:

“Hello everyone ! Here is my new video ! For this third monthly video (June) I filmed friends while they where enjoying Misasa ! We had a lot of fun !”

Jun 10

Below is a promotional video for the book For Fukui’s Sake:  Two Year’s In Rural Japan by JET alum Sam Baldwin (Fukui-ken, 2004-06) (who also created the video).  The video does a great job of capturing the images and essence Fukui through Sam’s eyes.  Read more about Sam in the book review Tim Martin (Fukui-ken, 2006-08) did for JQ magazine

Mar 9

クール things JET alums do: dance in a flash mob

JET alum Lee-Sean Huang (ALT Oita-ken ’03-’06 / webmaster, & JetWit) was recently spotted in a flash mob music video for the dance pop girl group Xelle. You can spot Lee-Sean in the back of the train, dancing with the big spotlights.

Read More

May 12

WITvid #7: “I Feel Good”

WITvid is a periodic series by Peter Weber (Saitama-ken 2004-07), the JET Program Coordinator in San Francisco.

Oh man, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a WITvid, but I came across this one and had to share.  It’s a throwback to the the early 90’s the the early years of the JET Program.  Timothy Beagley aka julesvegas (Kitashigayasu 1991-’92) presents a complication Enkai video set the sounds of the Godfather of Soul.  Looks like not much has changed as far as Enkais go.


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